Rebel without a cause?
Sometimes we find we’re still gorging on the foods we were denied as a child, in a pointless act of adult rebellion. I have a rebellious streak. In my teens, it was the cornerstone of my fun: it led to me regularly wagging school to binge on icecream at friends’ houses while we watched Jerry Springer, and to composing juvenile yet passionate “underground” newsletters, bitterly denouncing the unfairness of maths tests. School would have been intolerable without it.
But today, I don’t have a lot to rebel against. I like and respect everyone I work with. No-one orders me to wear regulation socks, tidy my room or attend PE class. And with planning, I can watch Jerry Springer and eat ice-cream whenever I want.
But my rebellious streak has to come out somewhere. So these days I rebel, quite idiotically, against myself.
Take the other day. I’d noticed that I was often feeling thirsty, and my skin was quite dry. I’ve been exercising a lot, and don’t drink enough water. So I resolved, quite simply, to drink more water. For about two days, I drank the regulation eight glasses. And I felt fantastic. My skin was soft, I didn’t feel parched. My thoughts were clearer and all the cogs and wheels seemed to clank together with a pleasing smoothness. Simple problem, simple solution.
Then, on day three, my brain and I had this conversation. Brain: “Hey, you haven’t had any water today. Go fill up a bottle and drink it. You know you’ll feel great.” Me: “No. Why don’t we see what happens if I don’t?”
So I stopped drinking water regularly and everything felt crap again. Yeah! I sure showed myself who was boss!
But I think my aversion to drinking water has deeper roots than a simple need to rebel against something. When I was a child, the words, “I’m thirsty!” would invariably be met with the response, “The water’s in the tap.” So I can’t help thinking that a part of me is still rebelling against the rules set by my parents. It would appear I’m not alone in struggling valiantly into adulthood against the dietary restrictions of childhood. I have a friend who wasn’t allowed to eat chocolate as a kid, and now regularly pushes whole bars of Cadburys into her mouth, like logs into a sawmill.
After gorging on bacon one day as a child, followed by a colourful fiesta of vomiting, another friend was banned from eating bacon for the rest of his youth. Today, as a 25-yearold, he practically lives on pig alone. As well as the drink prohibition in my house, I wasn’t really allowed any junk food at all. Now, though I eat pretty well overall, I’ll tear people’s limbs off for a taste of plastic cheese.
Conversely, another friend whose parents followed a sensible “everything in moderation” approach for their family – even plastic cheese was allowed occasionally – lays claim to an equally relaxed attitude to food as an adult. She can buy a family-sized block of chocolate, eat two squares and put it away for later, a feat of magnificent restraint in my world.
Which makes me wonder what foods I should be strict about with my son, who is almost two. He currently eats a pretty standard, all-the-food-groups, go-easy-onthe-sugar-and-fat sort of diet, but if I clamp down on particular things as he gets older, will he burst into a frenzy of Big Mac gorging as soon as he earns his first payslip? Judging by his current nature – affectionate and outgoing, with a deeply determined stubborn streak – he has his mother’s propensity for rebellion. I can only imagine how he’ll be as a teen and beyond. My parents are rubbing their hands together in anticipation.
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